Arthritis Research Funding Highlights


Dr. Cheryl Barnabe (Arthritis Research Canada, Alberta) is Canada’s leader in research relating to the health of the Indigenous community. Dr. Barnabe as Co-Principal Investigator with Cara Bablitz, Lynden Crowshoe, Michael Green, Rita Henderson, Andrea Kennedy, Stephanie Montesanti, Adam Murry, Pamela Roach and Esther Tailfeathers has received a $3.5 million over 5 years funding award from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). It is titled “Indigenous Primary Health Care and Policy Research Network in Alberta”. The Indigenous Primary Health Care and Policy Research Network will support researchers, health system leadership, health service providers and the Indigenous community to come together to build knowledge for improving primary health care for Indigenous peoples. The Network will nurture research that responds to the needs of community, is grounded within Indigenous ethics and addresses the impacts of ongoing colonization of Indigenous peoples. In nurturing this research, the Network seeks to clearly define the emerging knowledge area of Indigenous primary health care which is unique as it is deeply connected to community knowledge as well as social, political, clinical and population health care knowledge areas. The Network will use the new knowledge derived from its research to advocate for transforming the primary health care system to ensure accessible and quality health care that is focused on promoting health equity with Indigenous peoples. The Network will mentor and support individuals in their research training and provide opportunities for collaboration, sharing and connecting through meaningful events (science cafés, seminars, meetings, forums) and through on-line resources and approaches.


Dr. Paul Fortin (Arthritis Research Canada, Quebec at Laval University) is Co-Principal Investigator with Eric Boilard and Dr. Deborah Da Costa (Arthritis Research Canada, Quebec at McGill University) for an award of $300,000 over 3 years from The Arthritis Society.  It is titled “The impact of antimalarial drugs in arthritis patients exposed to SARS-CoV-2”.  Hydroxychloroquine is the drug that has garnered much attention during the pandemic. Years ago, Arthritis Research Canada research showed it to be the backbone of treatment for systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), by preventing severe disease and death. The research will determine if hydroxychloroquine protects SLE patients against getting COVID and whether in those who do get COVID it protects or increases the risk of complications, including poorer psychological health. To better understand the effect in SLE, it will assess the biomarkers of COVID’s disturbance of the body’s immune and inflammation systems with state of the art laboratory tests.


Dr. Linda Li (Arthritis Research Canada, British Columbia) is Co-Principal Investigator with Ahmed Mohamed Abou-Setta, Catherine Charette, Maya Jeyaraman, Terry Klassen, Ainsley Moore, Carolyn Shimmin, and Andrea Tricco in a catalyst award of $100,000 over 1 year from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).  It is titled “Strengthening and validation of a new 360-degree tool to evaluate patient and public engagement in health research”.  While patient and public collaboration in research is considered important by funding agencies, much is tokenistic.  The team has developed an evaluation tool that assesses patient and public engagement in actual research. The tool will be further developed, strengthened and tested across Canada with a large team of researchers, patient partners, and decision-makers. The goal of the research is to strengthen meaningful patient and public collaborations in health research and thus strengthen the health of Canadians.


Dr. Antonio Aviña, Arthritis Research Canada, British Columbia is Principal Investigator along with Co-investigators from Arthritis Research Canada, British ColumbiaDrs. Diane Lacaille, Jacek Kopec, Hui Xie, Johnathan Loree and Alison Hoens on a rapid response grant for $150,000 over 14 months from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR)The title is “Risk and outcome of COVID-19 in patients exposed to immunosuppressive and immunomodulatory agents in British Columbia. A population-based study.” Patients with inflammatory arthritis of all types (SLE and related diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and so on), cancer and transplantation receive drugs that are designed to suppress or alter the immune system. The team will evaluate every person in BC with these disorders to determine the impact of the drugs on developing COVID and on influencing outcomes, including complications. The BC Ministry of Health, the Michael Smith Foundation and Population Data BC will shorten the release time for the health data from 2-3 years to 1 month.  


Dr. Diane Lacaille, Arthritis Research Canada, British Columbia is the Principal Investigator with Co-Investigators from Arthritis Research Canada, British Columbia – Drs. Antonio Aviña, Hui Xie, John Esdaile, and collaborators Cheryl Koehn, Tijana Fazlagic, Jason Gordon, Stephanie Ensworth, Cathy Flanagan, Alison Kydd on a grant funded by the Canadian Rheumatology Association for $114,000 over 2 years.  It is titled “Safety and effectiveness of biosimilar anti-TNF agents in BC – Exploiting a natural experiment from a change in health policy”.  The biologics used to treat inflammatory arthritis, of which the first were anti-TNF agents, have been of huge benefit to patients.  Biogenerics are now available and as always with a generic there are concerns that they may not work as well or be as safe as the originators which cost twice as much – much of the concern has been actively created by the originator companies.  BC was the first environment in North America to mandate transitioning all with inflammatory arthritis using an originator anti-TNF to the biogeneric and will be the first in North America to evaluate both the efficacy and safety of the agents in rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.  Everyone in BC with those diseases will be studied.


Dr Nick Bansback, Arthritis Research Canada, British Columbia is the Principal Investigator on a grant of $98,000 over 2 years from the Canadian Rheumatology Association titled “Health economic evaluation of the mandatory switching policy for biosimilars in patients with rheumatoid arthritis”.  Co-investigators are Arthritis Research Canada, British Columbia – Drs. Mark Harrison, Dr. Aslam Anis, Jason Kur, Michael Law, and Dr. Mary De Vera. As noted in the above study summary, the BC Ministry of Health is the North American leader in transitioning people from originator biologic medications to biogenerics (also called biosimilars) at half the price of the originators. This project will determine if the transition saves the government as much money as was predicted.


Dr. Shahin Jamal, Arthritis Research Canada, British Columbia is the arthritis lead and Co-investigator on a grant (Principal Investigators Janet Roberts, Carrie Ye) for $74,000 over 2 years from the Canadian Rheumatology Association to study a new group of cancer drugs called check-point inhibitors. These drugs are on average life-prolonging/saving but can cause serious arthritis as a side-effect. The cancer specialist may not recognize the cause of the arthritis immediately and the drug induced arthritis can cause major interference with the quality of life of the cancer patient, and fear of the side-effects may prevent people with cancer who also have arthritis from getting life-saving medications. There is much to learn.


Dr. Jackie Whittaker, Arthritis Research Canada, British Columbia and Trish Silvester-Lee, Arthritis Patient Advisory Board member are Co-leads with Arthritis Research Canada, British Columbia Drs. Hui Xie, Alison Hoens, Michael Hunt, Ewa Roos, Amber Mosewich, Maxi Miciak, and Andrea Pajkic were given a $20,000 over 1 year grant from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research, 2020 Pathway to Patient-Orientated Research (P2P) Award. The goal is to evaluate the acceptability and feasibility of a new physiotherapist guided osteoarthritis risk reduction program for youth who have suffered a sports knee injury.

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